Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

December 21, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Biography, Modern Music, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(By Elvis Costello) (2015) We’ve been admiring EC from afar and occasionally up close, for a very long time.  So we come to his autobiography with relish and trepidation.  It is not as good as Speak Memory, the greatest autobiography ever penned, but it is hugely impressive – more a dense memory-book than a straight auto-biog, and much more concerned with music and music people than his own ego. He is obviously and rather charmingly challenged by autobiography, preferring the more oblique method of song lyrics and anecdotes, and saying of the process: “I don’t much care for the subject.”…

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Gaudí

December 13, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, Biography, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(Biography by Gijs van Hensbergen) (2001) Before the New Brutalism (described as the ‘Screw You Style of Architecture”), there was Antoni Gaudí (1852 – 1926) who dazzled the world with his innovative, modern, rococo buildings in Catalonia and Barcelona.  Le Corbusier recognised his daring and complex designs, so it is a pity he declined to follow his example. His simple grandeur evokes late mannerism, coupled with swirls and rounded features that return to classicism as well as recalling some Moorish structures. Who else could have designed the Arcadia-meets-Disneyland that is the Park Güell? (see above and below).  He said that…

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Life of Herod

November 17, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Biography, HISTORY, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

Massacre of the Innocents (1565/7 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder)

(By Josephus) (c. 79-93AD) A Jewish scholar who fell in with the Romans was well-placed to write an account of the fairly wicked and opportunistic King of Judea (37-4BC).  Herod was a survivor in every sense, swinging between supplicant and psycho, and he knew how to pick a winner.  Most of the losers, meanwhile, comprised members of his extended family, leading to the saying that it was ‘better to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son’. This intriguing work has the nuance and factual matrix absent from the biblical references, suggesting that the Massacre of the Innocents was really an inspired…

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Attlee

November 15, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Biography, POLITICS, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

(By Kenneth Harris) (1982) A big comprehensive tome on the bland, modest and decent Labour leader who as a rather supine Prime Minister from 1945-1951, gave the Brits post-war austerity and de-colonization.  He seems to have oozed integrity, to the point where he was as clean and dull as an Eagle Scout Master (remember the quip “An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street and Mr Attlee got out”) but he was an invaluable brake on the zealous excesses of Churchill, within that curious and brilliant creature, the wartime coalition. This is reflected in the golden vignette of January 1945, when Attlee wrote…

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The Lost Landscape

September 28, 2015 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Biography, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WRITING & LITERATURE |

(by Joyce Carol Oates). Joyce Oates wrote this:- “‘My sweet little blue-eyed girl,’ he said in a half-sung sigh that had nothing to do with [Connie’s] brown eyes but was taken up just the same by the vast sunlit reaches of the land behind him and on all sides of him – so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it.”* Surely one of the most chilling and sublime sentences in American fiction. So I pre-ordered the first volume of her memoirs (excluding “A Widow’s Story’) with alacrity and…

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